Ten-man North End put in a brilliant display at Elland Road to march into round three of the Carabao Cup with a 2-0 win against Leeds United.
A penalty from Daniel Johnson and a goal of the season contender from Brandon Barker put the Lilywhites in the hat for the next stage of the competition, despite Ryan Ledson’s sending-off mid-way through the first half.
North End boss Alex Neil made seven changes to the side that faced Derby County a few days earlier, with Darnell Fisher, Josh Harrop, Ledson and Ben Davies retaining their places in the starting XI.
Davies was also named as captain of the side, for the first time, leading out the team he came through the ranks with, having also captained the team at U18 level.
And the game immediately sparked to life, as North End pressed the Leeds backline from the first whistle, Harrop forcing the ball into the box where Moult was upended by Conor Shaughnessy, referee Tony Harrington pointing straight to the spot just 45 seconds into the game.
No.11 Johnson stepped up, sending goalkeeper Jamal Blackman the wrong way, calmly stroking the ball left-footed into the bottom right hand corner for the club’s first goal away from Deepdale in 2018/19.
The visitors’ pressure was incessant in the opening 15 minutes, but the home side looked a threat on the break and Chris Maxwell was needed for the first time at that quarter hour stage as Jamie Shackleton drilled a cross in from the right, by the corner flag, and Tyler Roberts volleyed from 15 yards, on target, but straight at the North End stopper, who tipped over for a corner.
Just before the half-hour mark though a game-changing moment came as Ledson went in for a full-blooded challenge on Lewis Baker, 30 yards from the United goal. The Scouser got the ball, but also got the man and official Harrington went straight to his back pocket producing a red card.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side tried to capitalise on the extra man advantage and Maxwell had to be at his sharpest on 34 minutes, getting down low to his right to make a smart save from Patrick Bamford from 25 yards, he saw it late and got two hands to push the ball around the corner.
But a minute into first half injury-time it was 2-0 and in stunning fashion. Barker picked up the ball ten yards outside his own box and ran 70 yards at the heart of the Whites backline, towards the left corner of the penalty areas before driving a shot left-footed into the top right corner of the goal – quite stunning!
Six minutes into the second half, with Leeds having made a double change at the break, Darnell Fisher broke into the box onto Johnson’s through ball and seemed to be completed upended. It was seemingly a clear second penalty for PNE, but this time Mr Harrington – in a good position just a few yards away – shook his head and let play go on.
North End made three changes of their own with 15 minutes left, Pearson, Browne and Nmecha all on, adding fresh legs to the very hard-working green-clad Lilywhites.
Six minutes were added on by the match official in the second period, with North End shaped with two banks of four and Nmecha the lone frontman in the closing minutes. Pontus Jansson saw a shot blocked in the first of those minutes, but in reality they didn’t get near Maxwell’s goal, the young defence superbly marshalled by skipper Davies.
Leeds United line-up: Blackman, Bamford, Roberts (Alioski, 61), Dallas (c), Jansson, Pearce, Harrison, Phillips, Baker, Shaughnessy (Saiz, 46), Shackleton (Klich, 46). Subs not used: Huffer, Ayling, Douglas, Roofe.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Fisher, Earl, Ledson, Storey, Davies (c), Barkhuizen, Johnson (Pearson, 72), Moult (Nmecha, 75), Harrop, Barker (Browne, 73). Subs not used: Rudd, Hughes, Burke, Huntington, Nmecha.
Attendance: 18,652 (981 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr T Harrington